Making the Most of Everything

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At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Community Connections

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Most of what I write about in this blog pertains to house and home. However, there is much more to my life. Extended family gatherings, cultural events, exercise, enjoying the natural environment and of course, travel are some of the various activities I enjoy. Travel has been somewhat curtailed in the past couple of years but we have still managed numerous shorter trips closer to home rather than major overseas travel.

The other thing that I am both passionate about and find satisfying is involvement in community groups and activities.

This week has seen plenty of action on that front. I am directly involved in 3 groups. The first and smallest is a local residents group for our semi-rural area. There is minimal action in this group but as the secretary I did attend a committee meeting this week and have minutes to finish and distribute.

The other two groups are separate but closely aligned in purpose.

The first is Boomerang Bags. This is a global grassroots project which was started on the Gold Coast in my home state of Queensland, Australia. It seeks to tackle single use plastic pollution by creating reusable alternatives from salvaged and discarded fabric. I have been involved for a little over 4 years, the last 2 co-ordinating our small group. One of my earlier posts gives a bit more information.

My other foray into community action is a fairly recently-formed waste action group which goes by the acronym of WAM. Late last year we co-ordinated several community events during National Recycling Week. There are many and varied ideas for directions the group might take but the overarching theme is about reducing consumption and waste, both of which are very important to me. I regularly address these themes on a personal level in my blog posts. Watch for more about we are doing as a community to encourage everyone to make a difference.

More Creations

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The weather has improved slightly. It is not raining but the clouds are practically sitting on our shoulders and the humidity remains above 90%. I am thinking of venturing out to the garden this afternoon but in the meantime I have continued sewing.

These pieces of fabric were given to me for Boomerang bags. They are strong, good quality cotton and are clearly furnishing samples. I decided to team them with existing fabric from my stash but the first job was to attach the pockets.

The completed bags.

A Mixed Bag

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The weather has been quite ghastly for the past couple of days so any kind of outdoor tasks were out of the question.

So, I settled myself into my workroom and decided to sew.

I made a top for myself from a remnant of fabric that had been given to me. The very simple pattern was taken from a top I had bought at an op shop a couple of years ago.

This was not the first time I had used the pattern. I made a blouse from a salvaged tablecloth a few weeks ago. It had some stains and was destined for landfill from our local charity shop. A quick soak solved most of the stain problem. I combined the pattern with a sleeve from a commercial pattern.

Back to today. I took the first tentative steps in making another quilt. This one is mostly muted green tonings. Four blocks done – about 45 to go. I will need a lot more fabric before that happens.

Finally, I made another Boomerang bag. As is often the case, I was feeling a bit ho-hum about the fabric colour combination but it turned out really well.

I have numerous other sewing projects underway but it is nice to be able to finish some and share them with you.

I am hopeful that the weather will improve in the next day or so and I will be able to spend some time outdoors.

Creating With Scraps

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One of my longer term projects is to use up the many and varied fabric pieces I have acquired from multiple sources.

When I was tidying up a few weeks ago I found various pieces of denim offcuts. Once I collected them all together I realised that there was a significant pile. Many were pieces that had been cut off when shortening new jeans. Others were salvaged from garments that were no longer wearable.

Using an existing apron for a template I made a pattern then a patchwork denim apron for myself. The neck strap, binding and ties were all salvaged or remnants.

After posting this photo on my Facebook page I was approached by a friend who asked if I was selling them. Well, not exactly, but I did agree to make her one. This time I even included pockets. These were salvaged from a pair of GMan’s old gardening jeans that had been patched so many times that he had recently declared that they were only fit for the rubbish. That was the case for most of them but the back pockets were still in good condition.

I used flat felled seams to replicate the seams normally seen on jeans. This also meant that there are no raw edges on the reverse of the apron.

My pile of denim offcuts is now much reduced, although I do still have enough for the occasional mending task.

Buy Nothing November – An Update

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It is nearly 2 weeks since I first posted about Buy Nothing November. You can read the first instalment here.

Since then we have bought 2 more physical items which have come into our home. The first is a rat trap which fairly self-explanatory and does not need a photo.

The second item is a timber storage box. I had been perusing secondhand sites for a few weeks as I was looking for a seat for my mini-mudroom. That is probably too grand a description as it is actually a corner of the workshop near the entrance to the house via the internal staircase. Anyway, I turned my attention from benches to storage boxes and found this timber box in a neighbouring town for $50. The storage space which a box affords is an added bonus to the original purpose of providing seating.

I will provide a final update at the end of the month.

Monday Mending

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I have a pair of jeans that were bought in 2012 and are becoming rather thin. This is particularly evident at the inner thighs and the tiny hole is becoming larger.

Although they are no longer my good jeans I still wear them regularly so decided to try my hand at patching them. I have patched jeans previously but usually with no consideration to the aesthetic as they were only for wearing in the garden. This time I was aiming for a better looking result.

This is what I had to work with.

2 patches cut from some denim offcuts.

Double-sided interfacing ironed onto the wrong side of the fabric patches.

Patches ironed onto the inside of the jeans.

Two rows of stitching around each patch to secure them.

I then turned the jeans to the outside and using a tight, wide zigzag stitch I stitched over the hole and the worst of the thin areas to reinforce them.

The view on the inside.

All finished.

Once they are washed these will be ready to wear again. After 9 years of consistent wear the jeans are getting a bit thin all over but I think I have extended the life for a bit. One or two years, perhaps? I don’t know but I do know that it was worth 20 minutes of my time and a small quantity of materials I had on hand to make these jeans wearable again.

Buy Nothing November

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As per the title, it is Buy Nothing November. Have you heard of it? It is the pushback against the mega-retailing phenomenon known as Black Friday.

Black Friday (the day following Thanksgiving in the United States) sales started to become popularised as a day for retail sales in the 1980s. This insidious spread of rampant consumerism has now spread its tentacles to the UK and Australia as well as other places of which I am unware. Of course, online retailing has jumped on the bandwagon in a huge way, too.

I found out about Buy Nothing November via The Story of Stuff on Facebook. Their actual post is copied below.

The Story of Stuff Project 

Welcome to #BuyNothingNovember! For years, the Story of Stuff Project has been actively promoting Buy Nothing Day, the alternative to Black Friday. But the holiday season, in general, has an outsized impact on the planet, so this year we’re expanding the call-to-action for the entire month of November. Throughout this month, we will be sharing facts and figures about the link between consumerism and climate change, and the ecological crisis at large. Refusing to buy new, nonessential goods is a direct-action protest against the corporate conglomerates who are destroying our home. Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola — these companies are only allowed to be so large because we give them permission, with our dollar. It’s time we show them who is really in charge here. #BuyNothingNew

We generally keep our buying of stuff to a minimum and are certainly not enticed by the crazy Black Friday sales. I had no prior knowledge of this particular month and we track all of our spending so it is going to be quite easy to see what stuff we actually buy during November.

One third of the month is almost gone so it is probably time to review what stuff we have bought.

I am not including groceries and fuel which are both consumables nor ‘experiences’ such as gym fees, dining out and entrance to entertainment venues.

We have purchased and brought 3 things into our home. They are:

A pump for a 20 litre drum of chemical. It took a bit of research to find where we could source one but we succeeded.

A new lockable door handle for the freshly painted door between the garage and the workshop area.

A small bundle of fabric from the thrift shop. I have already used most of the orange fabric and the remainder will be used up as I continue making Boomerang bags.

I am pretty pleased when I consider how little ‘stuff’ we buy.

Wrapped Up

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I have made salad wraps for our dinner tonight as we will be out of the house and between events.

Wraps are a great portable alternative to takeaway. An added bonus is that you can tailor-make them to meet individual choices and dietary requirements and there are no unknown, hidden ingredients.

In order to make this a totally waste-free option, I make my own wraps which are simple and gluten-free. The recipe is here.

Today the fillings include a spread of refried beans topped with mushroom and cucumber slices, leftover quinoa salad, grated cheese and a little mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce.

The rolled wraps are the rolled up diagonally in greaseproof paper and can be eaten by unfolding the paper from one end.

What is your favourite portable meal or snack? Is plastic-free? Love to hear your ideas.

Production Line

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When making Boomerang bags I do not simply make one bag from start to finish as I try to use my time efficiently.

Today I cut out, hemmed and edged 50 screen printed pockets.

Then I added a prepared pocket to each of 32 bundles which include a pre-cut piece of fabric for the bag as well as a pair of prepared handles.

I am not about to make 32 bags in one go but it is now a simple matter of grabbing a pack and making a bag without having to find and cut material as well as choosing fabric for suitable matching or contrasting handles.

These are all made from used doona covers, sheets, pillow cases, cushion covers and curtains.